Summary: There were two trials the night Jesus was arrested. One was illegal but formal. The other trial was in the court of public opinion. Peter didn't do so well in his trial.
You can hear the audio of the sermon at: https://www.buzzsprout.com/697261/8241541
During the pastorate of Henry Ward Beecher in Indianapolis he preached a series of sermons upon drunkenness and gambling, incidentally scoring the men of the community who profited by these sins. During the ensuing week he was accosted on the street by a would-be assailant, pistol in hand, who demanded a retraction of some utterance of the preceding Sunday.
“Take it back, right here!” he demanded with an oath, “or I will shoot you on the spot!”
“Shoot away!” was the preacher’s response as he walked calmly away, hurling over his shoulder this parting remark:
“I don’t believe you can hit the mark as well as I did!”
When you research and survey current American culture about Christians - how we’re perceived in the larger cultural context, the results are mixed.
It is clear that the overall perception of Christianity is much less positive than even 20-30 years ago.
The rate of “deconversions” has increased dramatically.
Words like, “intolerant, bigoted, racist, homophobic, extremists” are applied generically to Christians.
We know or at least understand intuitively that it’s not as acceptable out there “in the world” to be a follower of Jesus as in the past.
Our reactions tend toward keeping our heads down. Doing a credible imitation of a turtle.
But that reaction isn’t going to work. We cannot call ourselves disciples of Jesus if we’re not going to obey His greatest commission to go out and make disciples.
So, Jesus is on trial then and now.
At the same time, Peter is being tried in the court of public opinion.
Even as we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection, we are on trial for being disciples of Jesus just as surely as Peter was.
Like Peter, we waver between courage and cowardice.
Not long before the trial, Peter confidently affirms he is willing to die for Jesus.
Luke 22:33–34 NLT
33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” 34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
The gospels intertwine the two trials going on that night.
Jesus is experiencing a mockery of a trial that had a preordained conclusion. Jewish leaders were simply trying to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to be able to say that it was all done correctly. It was not.
In the meantime, Peter tries to ride the fence by staying near Jesus but out of trouble for himself.
Loyal - Sometimes
Matthew 26:58 NLT
58 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end.
Jesus is being examined (tried) by Annas who was the traditional high priest (his son-in-law, Caiaphas had been installed by the Romans as High Priest but the role was a lifetime appointment so the Jews still thought of Annas as the true authority,)
Peter wants to know what is going on (along with John) and manages to gain entrance to the High Priest’s compound to stay nearby.
This by itself is risky. At that very moment, Annas is questioning Jesus about his followers.
John 18:19 NLT
19 Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them.
It’s not like we’re never loyal or faithful to Christ.
It seems like Peter was hoping to blend into the crowd and avoid detection.
The problem with this is, people noticed who you hang around with.
Jesus is obviously the object of attraction but who are these guys, his disciples?
It’s fun to be with the popular crowd as long as they remain popular.
Three times he’s confronted with his association with Jesus.
Matthew 26:69–70 NLT
69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
He tries to plead ignorance of Jesus.
Then comes another identification:
Mark 14:69 NLT
69 When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!”
Peter moves from pretending not to understand the question to outright distancing himself from Jesus.
Peter shows his nervousness by denying Jesus again, this time with an oath.
Matthew 26:72 NLT
72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.
This was a serious action on Peter’s part. He has sworn by God that their statement is untrue.